Travis Ryan comforted his mother, Katherine Kaney, at an Aiken benefit Sunday as they mourned the loss of his sister and niece.
“I’m still in shock,” Ryan said of the homicide that claimed the lives of Ashley Kaney, 26, and her daughter, Riley Burdick, 8, in Summerville, S.C., this month. “It goes all the way to your ear, but not into your head. It’s just not something you can wrap your mind around.”
Kaney, like several others Sunday, wore a purple shirt as she navigated the crowd at the Aiken United for Ashley and Riley benefit at The Red Pepper in Aiken, held to raise awareness of domestic violence.
More than 100 people attended the benefit, which aimed to raise more than $10,000 to help offset funeral costs for the family.
“A lot of people don’t like to talk about domestic violence or sexual assault, so when something happens that hits close to home, it’s great to come out and raise awareness to tell the community that it’s OK to talk about it,” said Sarah Tuccitto, the volunteer coordinator at the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons. “Things need to be done or else it’s going to keep happening.”
Patrons treated themselves to a buffet while enjoying live music on the patio. Others participated in a silent auction inside the restaurant.
“I didn’t have one single business or one single person turn me down,” Red Pepper co-owner John Stanley said. “Even with the furloughs going on, every business that I went to was able to contribute.”
Stanley said he has been vocal about holding the event. Ashley Kaney had worked at the restaurant as a bartender, and Stanley said he considers her to be family.
“Some of her best friends still work here and we all have really, really close ties,” he said. “When you’re talking about a local restaurant like this, you’re talking about family, and it hit real close to home.”
Katherine Kaney said the support has been comforting.
“I even got a check yesterday from a woman in California that I’ve never met,” she said as tears collected in her eyes. “Inside was a beautiful note that said, ‘You’re in my prayers and will always be.’”
Dana Nolan smiled as she reminisced about her friend of 22 years and her daughter,.
“You don’t ever expect it to happen to somebody you know,” she said. “Sometimes you need to push a little harder. You can always change things. It’s never too late.”
Stanley and Katherine Kaney said they expect the benefit to become an annual event to raise awareness of domestic violence. Future proceeds would go to the Cumbee Center to help keep services free.
Less than an hour after the event started, Tuccitto said enough money was raised to cover the funeral expenses. Any extra money will be given to the family to use at its discretion.
“I encourage anybody who knows someone being abused to do something,” Katherine Kaney said. “Don’t do what I did. Even if you think that they might get mad at you, because you might save their life. “